experimenting with Olympus mirror-less cameras

About a year ago, I made the jump to buy a mirror-less camera, a Fuji X-Pro 1. As much as I like my Fuji, it has not replaced my DSLR. I am just so familiar with my DSLR – it is like one of my kids. Mirror-less cameras are becoming more popular and common. I have seen a big jump in the number of people asking if a mirror-less camera will work for my SnapShop DSLR course. I’ve wanted to practice and try to get a little more familiar with their pros and cons.

I randomly received an email from Olympus asking if I would like to take a couple of their cameras for a test drive. To be honest, I don’t want to send them back. Maybe they’ll forget they sent two to Oklahoma! Probably not.

Let me note – I am not paid or compensated in any way for talking about these cameras. This is not an official review. I jumped on the offer to test them out simply for my own learning experience.

Olympus sent me two cameras: the E-PL7 and the E-M10.

3.15olympus-013.15olympus-02Two of the coolest features on the cameras are the different ways the LCD screens move. I am not accustomed to shooting using a LCD screen. I like using a viewfinder, so the switch to using a screen is really difficult for me. However, the movement of these screens provided me some fun new ways to shoot. The E-M10 has a screen the swivels up & has a viewfinder, which gives it versatility. There are so many times I am laying on the ground attempting to get a shot, but I have to twist my head in an attempt to look through the viewfinder. This feature makes capturing tricky angles much easier.

The E-PL7 has a LCD screen that rotates down – basically making ‘selfies’ really easy on a great camera, but it does not have a viewfinder. 3.15olympus-20The rotating down LCD was by far my kids favorite feature. They immediately began asking for a camera of their own. It also took a while for me to get it back from them.3.15olympus-03They are watching themselves on the LCD. While it was fun for them to see themselves, it was really hard for me to compose the shot because the camera does not also have a viewfinder for me to use.3.15olympus-04One of the greatest assets of mirror-less cameras are their size. They are tremendously smaller than DSLRs! I took the E-PL7 on a hike to experiment with it. Right off the bat, I appreciated how small and light it was.3.15olympus-093.15olympus-10The boys ran off ahead and it was too hard for me to keep up with them and try to learn how to use a new camera. Thankfully, there is a little girl that likes to always be by my side…so I practiced with her.3.15olympus-113.15olympus-123.15olympus-133.15olympus-143.15olympus-153.15olympus-16

I still have a lot of practicing and learning to do with both cameras. Here are a few of my initial thoughts:

Size: I REALLY like the small size and light weight

LCD screens: I prefer using a viewfinder. However, for many learning to shoot seeing on the LCD exactly what you are capturing is big benefit. My 8 year old (who uses my old DSLR) is begging for one of these cameras now.

Touch screen: I am a creature of habit, so I like traditional focusing. However, the option to touch the screen where you want to focus is perfect for so many…my 8 year old loved this feature too.

Controls: I had a difficult time navigating the controls simply because they are new to me. The control dials are limited, which could be a great thing…it just takes some time to get used to.

Overall, I am going to have to put more time into using the cameras to really understand all they offer. I do think for someone looking to invest in a new camera (that has not owned a DSLR), these could be really great options. Changing the manual settings are a little tricky at first, but the Auto modes are very user friendly. For someone wanting to take their photography to a new level, but wanting something much smaller than a bulky DSLR, the mirror-less camera is the way to go.

So when people ask if a mirror-less camera will work for my SnapShop course, my answer is “yes” and “no”. The course is set up for DSLR users. For examples on how to change certain settings, I use my DSLR. Mirror-less cameras function much differently in regards to where and how to change settings. The bulk of the course (what the manual settings mean, composition and storytelling) all apply to both DSLR and mirror-less cameras.

Well, it this wasn’t a review, but more a ‘hey, I’m experimenting with another camera” post. For those of you already shooting with mirror-less cameras, what would you like to add?

For more information on what I regularly shoot with, click here.


Registration for the April/May SnapShop courses is currently open.  For more information on the courses and how to register, click here.


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  • Kelleyn - Looks like the quality is as good as my mac daddy camera and might be nice to have something lighter to tote around. Sometimes the big camera is so heavy.

  • Fee ist mein Name - I take all my pictures with a Olympus OM-D E-M5 and I love it. It has a viewfinder and you can focus traditionally. It is a bit more on the pricy side, but I would never change to a DSLR :)!

  • Meg - I bought a fuji x100s a couple of months ago for traveling, and I’ve fallen in love with it. Despite it’s limitations (fixed 35mm, slow autofocus) the quality actually beats that of my canon 5d mark ii, and I find myself reaching for or more and more even at home.

  • Christi S. - I have the first generation Olympus PEN and took your SnapShot class with it. I was familiar enough with the camera that I still learned a lot from the class, but at the end of the day, I ended up buying a Canon DSLR. I found it so much easier to quickly manipulate the settings and realized I prefer a viewfinder too! I still use the Olympus when we travel because it so light, and I look like less of a tourist with a smaller camera. 😉 I will say it looks like they’ve made some great improvements to the camera though!

  • Jenny B. - I don’t have any experience with mirror-less cameras, but I’ve been thinking about DSLRs a lot lately. I have a Nikon D40 that I’ve used for several years, and lately, it just isn’t taking great pictures. I can’t figure out if it’s me (have I just gotten lazy?) or if it’s the camera (is it just getting old? does it need something fixed?). Anyway… I’m frustrated enough with it, that I find myself reaching for my iPhone a whole lot more often. I keep thinking that I need a new camera. I want something that will take great, fast pictures in low light, so I’m leaning toward a Canon 6D, but I can’t decide if I can justify the price. I would be willing to replace my D40 with a newer low-end DSLR, but only if it would give me great low-light results, and I just think I’m going to have to upgrade to really get what I want. So, now I’m wondering… How are the mirror-less cameras in low light?

  • Yolanda Lockhart-Howe - I switched to a Canon G1X Mark II about a year ago after 5 years of shooting with a Rebel XSi. I absolutely love it and would not invest in a new SLR unless I was planning to work as professional photographer. For personal photo groans memory keeping the G1X offers everything I want, including the ability to shoot in RAW, high ISO range, manual mode, great burst speed, and an f/1.4 aperture. To have all of that in a compact package has been perfect for my needs.

  • Jenny B. - I just came across an old post of yours while searching for info about upgrading from my Nikon D40 to a Canon 6D. I think the search must have picked up on the comment I left then. Ha. 🙂 Anyway, I completely forgot that you also shoot with a 6D. 🙂 They’ve come down in price lately, so I’m getting really tempted. I appreciate you sharing camera reviews. It’s so helpful to read thoughts from a fellow mom who uses her camera the same way I do. For anyone else who might be interested, here’s that post: http://ashleyannphotography.com/blog/2014/05/05/fujifilm-x-pro-1-canon-6d-a-moms-thoughts/

  • AshleyAnn - Jenny – I love my 6D. I am forcing myself to shoot with my mirror-less camera and the Olympus ones because I know part of my issue is that they aren’t familiar. However, I am a huge fan of my 6D! The 6D and my Fuji both work so well in low light. I’m still working on understanding how to best use the Olympus cameras in low light.

  • Shivaun M - How is the LCD display in bright light? I know on my poor old Canon, the display is so dim in bright light it’s next to useless. I would assume this display would have to be much better.

  • Melissa D. - This has nothing to do with cameras…I am wondering where you got your poppy print? Thanks!

  • Judy G - Ashley, I have owned the E M10 almost a year. Like anything new it takes time to get comfortable with a new camera. I love the weight and size. The setting options are almost limitless and not being a professional, some settings are puzzling to me. The documentation is technical but over time my comfort is increasing. I typically use the view finder rather than the screen but think I should take advantage of the screen more often now.
    Your shots are great.. Clear and bright. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m not certain if my E M10 will remain my primary camera but I enjoy having it with me while traveling.
    Did you always use the cameras in manual mode?

  • Laura@Ms Smartie Pants - Oh my what happened to the “little” firecracker! I started following you when she just turned 1 and look at her now! They are all growing, so beautiful!

  • kristen - I know this thread is pretty old, but I’m hoping someone will see it. I am considering a mirrorless olympus and have read that the fuji is great in low light, but that the olympus is better with action shots. I wonder if anyone can attest to this comparison of these cameras and how they function as a camera for taking pics of kids. I have a new baby and need a great camera ASAP!